January is the start of a new gardening year and there are a lot of jobs to do this month to help tidy your space and get it ready. As well as vegetables, flowers, and shrubs to plant in January, it is also a good time to prune plants to keep them neat and in great shape for the year ahead.
It is a good time for pruning many shrubs, trees, and bushes, as they are in the middle of their dormancy period. By getting out and pruning in January, the often-simple task can help you get bigger harvests of fruit and better displays of flowers and color come summer.
Always do your research before heading out to prune in winter, however, as not all plants should be cut during the colder months. Avoid making a pruning mistake by pruning at the wrong time. To help you know what you should cut, we take a look at seven plants that will benefit from a bit of attention this month.
Tips for January pruning
As well as doing your research on what should, and shouldn’t, be pruned in January, it is also best to avoid cutting when it is snowy or temperatures are extremely cold - therefore, when you can get out to prune may be dependent on your US hardiness zone.
Whenever you cut, always use clean and sharp garden tools. This means that cuts you make will be cleaner and easier to heal, plus you eliminate the risk of spreading disease from plant-to-plant around the garden.
A pocket-sized sharpener ideal for keeping your pruning tools sharp while out in the garden. As well as keeping tools sharp, it also includes a sponge soaked with lubricating oil to clean and lubricate blades to prevent rust and damage
1. Fall-fruiting raspberries
Raspberries come in summer types and late types, with the latter also known as fall-fruiting raspberries. The two types flower on different wood, provide a harvest at different times, and are pruned in distinctive ways.
Make sure you know what raspberries you have growing, as not cutting correctly will be a mistake that will deprive you of a year of delicious raspberries.
Late raspberries flower and fruit on wood produced that current season, so the method of how to prune raspberries is very simple. It merely involves cutting all the canes that fruited last year right down to the ground. The best time to prune late raspberries is in winter, and January or February is an ideal time to head out with the pruning shears.
Redcurrant bushes are really heavy-cropping and can be hugely productive by being pruned annually. It is best to prune redcurrant bushes when the plant is dormant, this can be done from winter through to early spring.
The bushes can be pruned in January, providing the winter isn’t too harsh. It is always best to avoid trimming when the temperatures are freezing. Redcurrants fruit best on two and three-year-old stems, so the aim is to remove branches older than three years and cut back the rest of the side shoots by around a third.
This is along with removing dead, diseased, and damaged stems. It can also be the right time to prune whitecurrants, pinkcurrants, and blackcurrants - however the way you prune blackcurrants is different to the other types of soft fruit bushes.
The way to prune gooseberries is to remove a third of the oldest and least-productive stems as you try to create an open and goblet-shaped bush with around 9-12 strong shoots and a good mix of one, two, and three-year-old wood. The side shoots on the remaining stems are removed to two or three buds.
This method can maximise the potential production of gooseberries. Not pruning the bushes in the right way is a gooseberry growing mistake that can impact any potential harvest. Also, when you prune, avoid getting too carried away with the shears and observe the one-third pruning rule, this is to never remove more than a third of the total wood as it can affect the overall health of the shrub.
Rhododendrons are usually very low maintenance woodland plants and there are in fact over a thousand species under the rhododendron genus - coming in a huge range of colors. They usually do not need lots of pruning, but sometimes an old rhododendron will require heavy pruning in order to reduce their size.
This heavier cutting to rejuvenate an older plant is best done in January or February when the shrub is dormant, and it definitely wants to be done before the rhododendron starts growing again in spring.
It is, however, best to avoid doing the pruning on a frosty day. Such major rejuvenation usually requires a pruning saw to get through the thickest wood as you cut branches back to the ground level.
Spirea are perennial deciduous plants that can make fantastic landscaping shrubs thanks to the profuse level of flowers they produce in spring or summer. The shrubs benefit from a prune to prevent them getting too tangled and congested.
Summer-blooming spirea can be pruned in winter, while they are dormant, to encourage the growth of new wood that they bloom on. Older spirea benefit from a prune in winter to control the shape and keep them compact.
A harder cut back can remedy any tangles of older branches and stimulate growth that ensures the blooms are not just confined to the top of the shrub. The new growth that is stimulated should be vibrant and productive, giving you a fantastic display as well as a more compact shape overall.
The plants do not require lots of pruning, but regular trimming can keep them dense and full of flowers and berries. Spreading evergreen cotoneasters benefit from having wayward shoots cut back, to keep the growth compact, and some oldest branches removed. It is best to hold off pruning deciduous cotoneasters until the plants start growing again in spring.
If you are growing bougainvillaea, then pruning is always recommended as otherwise these vigorous climbing plants can become an unruly mess and look somewhat wild.
Any large-scale pruning of bougainvillaea should take place from January through to early spring, when the plant is in a semi-dormant state. As it produces its colorful flower bracts on new growth, winter is the time to prune away old growth so it can produce a flush of new stems in order to put on a colorful display.
When pruning bougainvillaea in winter, remove older and crowded stems all the way down at the base, and also prune out any growth that has become too big for its space. It is recommended to wear thick gloves, such as gardening gauntlets available at Amazon, as many bougainvillaea have sharp thorns and you can save trimmings to propagate new bougainvillaeas from plant cuttings.
Garden pruning shears made of Japanese stainless steel which can easily trim branches with a diameter of 1 inch
This set has a pair of pruning shears and a pair of loppers - ideal to help you complete any pruning tasks
Is January a good time to prune shrubs?
Deciduous shrubs can be pruned in January during their dormant season. Their lack of leaves during winter is beneficial as you can see the full shape of the shrub and it can help you make important pruning decisions.
Is January too early to prune roses?
January or February are good months to prune roses for the year ahead. Roses can be pruned in late winter or early spring, though when you cut will depend on when the new growth starts in your area.
If you live in a milder area with warmer winters, then January can be an ideal time to prune - though they can be done as late as March or April in colder climates. So do not rush unnecessarily - wait for the right time to prune roses - as going too early before the frosts have ended can damage the health of your roses.
Is it OK to cut hedges in January?
You can cut deciduous hedges, such as beech, hazel, or hornbeam, in winter when they are dormant. As well as getting them in shape ahead of starting to grow again come spring, neatly-trimmed hedges can provide good structure in a winter garden.
Cleaning, sharpening, and correctly storing your tools is an important job to add to any winter gardening checklist. Not only will they make gardening easier, but it will also extend the lifespan of any essential garden tools.
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Drew’s passion for gardening started with growing vegetables and salad in raised beds in a small urban terrace garden. He has gone on to work as a professional gardener in historic gardens across the UK and also specialise as a kitchen gardener growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, and cut flowers. That passion for growing extends to being an allotmenteer, garden blogger, and producing how-to gardening guides for websites. Drew was shortlisted in the New Talent of the Year award at the 2023 Garden Media Guild Awards.
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